My Mom has a new tempo to her days. Her Assisted Living community recently added a program for residents with cognitive issues from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Instead of arriving to find my Mom sleeping in her room, now she is out in the community when I arrive — even when it’s outside of the program hours.
The daily activity has given my Mom more energy and it’s nice to see her engaged with the others in her community. Yesterday I arrive before lunch and join in to paint with my Mom before we walk down to the lunchroom. When we arrive she suggests we go sit with a woman who is not in her activity group so we join her.
I introduce myself and she says “Yes Kay, I know you, You got into a little trouble with my daughter once.” I recognize her instantly and ask how her daughter is doing. The one unique aspect to this community is that many of the residents were classmates of my Dad’s at West Point or were friends made during an assignment over my Dad’s long military career.
When I was 16 (34 years ago), at a sleep over at a mutual friends house, we snuck out to go swimming in the pool on base. We were caught before we got in by the MPs (Military Police) and each of our father’s was called at 2 a.m. to come pick us up at the police station. It was determined that I was the ring leader in the ploy (which was probably true) and I didn’t see much of either girl after that incident. I do remember that the MPs tried to infer that we had been drinking, which was not true. I remember begging my parents to take me to the hospital for a blood test. I accepted my punishment, but didn’t want to be punished for a crime I didn’t commit.
I then learn how after this incident, my Mom and my now estranged-friends Mom would play bridge together. Apparently my Mom hosted social bridge at our house when I was in high school and then went off to college. After sharing this with me, she tells me “Your Mom used to be so nice.” My Mom is sitting at the table with us and it surprises me that she says this so freely in front on my Mom. I assume she doesn’t realize that my Mom’s feelings can still be hurt. She goes on to comment that “she’s just not here anymore.” I want to tell her that I still get glimpses of the woman who raised me and I wonder how soon the day will come when I can no longer find her.
I witness on a daily basis how little people know about dementia or how to interact with someone with cognitive impairment. It took some time for my siblings and myself to adapt. I hope that I can help others learn that the conceptual id Sigmund Freud identified is still intact and as I have witnessed, even someone with moderate dementia recognizes the slight. My Mom starts to turn into the lion after our lunch mate makes these comments. When my Mom is threatened or confused, she becomes very combative and I haven’t seen her this way in several weeks. I quickly find a way to excuse ourselves and get back to painting to I can spend the rest of my visit with the lamb. Escaped.